2006 Rape Charge Statute of Limitations Amendment Not Retroactive, CAAF Decides

United States v. Briggs was concluded by the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces (CAAF) recently, ending in a reversal of the appellant’s rape conviction and a dismissal of the charge. The CAAF reached this decision in part by referencing United States v. Mangahas, which established that a 2006 amendment to rape charge statute of limitations was not meant to be retroactive. The CAAF was unanimous in this decision.

Key Details of U.S. v. Briggs

Lieutenant Colonel Briggs pleaded not guilty to rape accusations stemming from an alleged incident in 2005, but would ultimately be convicted in 2014. Penalties used upon conviction included dismissal, reprimand, and five months of confinement.

During his trial, Briggs did not attempt to use any sort of statute of limitations defense because the CAAF held that rape charged did not have any applicable statute of limitations. When Briggs appealed the unfavorable case outcome and did raise a statute of limitations defense, the Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals (CCA) turned down the possibility of that defense because it had not been raised in the first place. After the CCA affirmed his conviction, the CAAF refused to review the case, despite it seemingly being clear that Briggs either did not receive adequate legal counsel or that application of the statute of limitations was unclear under the law.

U.S. v. Mangahas Sets a New Precedent

When the CAAF decided U.S. v. Mangahas, though, it changed the way the Court interpreted the statute of limitations for non-aggravated rape charges. That is to say, it placed new stepping stones to build a defense for Briggs and many others in his situation. For example, the Mangahas decision effectively reversed an Air Force CCA conviction for United States v. Collins, which convicted Collins in 2017 for a rape that allegedly took place in 2000.

The main deciding factor behind the updated interpretation of the rape statutes of limitations was that rape without aggravating factors cannot lead to a capital punishment upon conviction. As such, the statute of limitations, at least in military criminal defense applications, was only five years until Congress voted to change that law in 2006. However, the 2006 update made no direct mention of retroactive application. Given that Briggs was accused and convicted of a rape that allegedly occurred nearly a decade in the past and prior to 2006, the statute of limitations should have dropped the charged altogether.

The CAAF’s February 2019 decision held this decision, noting specifically that Article 43 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) only permitted a five-year statute of limitations at the time Briggs was charged. Without the 2006 amendment to the article by Congress in 2006, the statute of limitations would have ended in 2010. To further the explanation, Judge Maggs specifically points at Congress’s failure to explicitly state that the amendment was meant to act retroactively, and so military courts should have assumed it was not.

The Trusted Name in Global Military Criminal Defense Representation

Attorney Joseph Jordan is a name recognized around the globe for his impeccable skills as a military criminal defense attorney and representative for court martial. For years, he has been defending the rights of Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Airman, and Coast Guardsman against the most serious of accusations, including rape charges. If you have been accused of rape, allow Attorney Jordan and his legal team to spring to your defense, no matter where you are stationed. It might be possible that a statute of limitations can be raised in your defense as it was eventually raised in U.S. v. Briggs. Find out more right now by dialing (888) 616-6177 or contacting his firm online.